Lovett v. United States

328 U.S. 303 (1946)

Facts: Congress attached legislative rider §304 onto the Wartime Urgent Deficiency Appropriation of 1943 that forbid the executive branch from paying three employees – who Congress had found guilty of “subversive activity” – their salaries unless they were reappointed with the advice and consent of the Senate. President made a signing statement that said that he believed that it was unconstitutional. What did it prohibit? Can’t be paid for past and future actions from funds; House would not pass any appropriation without this rider attached.

Holding: Majority did not reach the constitutional issue; the employees were entitled to recover b/c the rider left the government’s salary obligations to them wholly intact. Court found that the prohibition amounted to a bill of attainder and there was no judicial tribunal that found them guilty of any crime

  • Bill of attainder: “A legislative act which inflicts punishment without a judicial trial.”

Rationale: No balancing was done here b/c the Constitution specifically prohibits bills of attainder. So all the court had to find here was whether or not this piece of legislation was a bill of attainder.

  • In addition, the appropriation was allocating provisions for the future.

Lovett and War Powers: Lovett supports proposition that Congress may not use its national security powers to “micro manage” the conduct of war of foreign policy. Dicta asserts that Congress can’t direct the conduct of campaigns, and can’t in the disguise of “rules for the governance” of the army impair the authority of the President as Commander in Chief.

  • This kind of structural trespass is usually a question of degree to be resolved by a functional balancing test under separation of powers analysis.
  1. Congress can limit, but it’s a weighing function.

Lovett and Appropriations Limitations: Supreme Court has, on rare occasions, struck down legislation for intruding impermissibly on Pres’ inherent constitutional authority/exercise of national security powers. Congress can’t through mere appropriation measures accomplish that which by direct legislative action would be beyond its constitutional authority.

Comments are closed.